“For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) Last month we looked at God’s passionate desire and relentless pursuit of us. When we’re lost He comes to seek and save us (Luke 19:10) and when we become His child and spouse at salvation His passionate love causes Him to protect us with His jealous love. We think of jealousy as always being wrong and sinful but Scripture reveals both a sinful jealousy and a righteous jealousy. One very dramatic picture of sinful jealousy is King Saul’s jealousy over David and how it drove him to try to kill David. (See 1 Samuel 18:1-9) Sinful jealousy is motivated by selfish love only wanting what we want for ourselves whereas righteous jealousy seen in God (and even in mankind in rare cases; see 2 Corinthians 11:2-3) is a love that wants the best for the beloved and thus will lovingly discipline us when we commit spiritual adultery by making anything in our life, even “good” things like family, career, hobbies, etc., more important than God Himself.
We need to see and understand God’s jealous love for us lest we misinterpret what God’s love means to Him and to us. For example, we can wrongly interpret God’s love for us by thinking He is more like a kind and gentle grandparent that may tend to spoil a child with love versus like a parent that lovingly but firmly disciplines and trains the child up into maturity. (See Hebrews 12:5-11) As C. S. Lewis says, most of us really don’t want a Father in heaven, we want a grandfather in heaven. But God as our Husband is even more intense. Here we see God’s love as the passionate, devoted and jealous love of a husband. In the Old Testament God calls Himself the Husband and Israel is His wife (Isaiah 54:5). In the New Testament Christians are called the bride of Christ and He is called the Bridegroom. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3) There are many Scriptural examples of how we as God’s spouse break His heart through “spiritual adultery” but two of the most poignant examples are seen in the book of Hosea and in chapter 16 of Ezekiel. If you read Ezekiel 16 and see how tenderly and lovingly the Lord has blessed us with everything a child and then an adult needs to feel loved and beautiful to God and then how we turn our backs on God and prostitute ourselves to money, sex and power and worse, you will feel the intensity of His jealous love.
God’s jealous love is perfect because He is our Creator and He knows what is best for children and His bride. His commands in Scripture for our loving and worshipful obedience are not to be viewed as robbing us of joy but showing us the path of our greatest joy. If we expect Him to just give us what we want and think is best for us it would be like a five-year-old wanting their mother to give them nothing but cotton candy, ice cream and chocolate for their meals each day. And even as adults we can still ask God for things that will harm us in the long-run. “You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:3-10)
God thinks of us all the time and knows all our thoughts and even the motivations of our heart. (Psalm 139; Hebrews 4:12-13) There is no way to have secrets from Him or to cheat on this Lover. But if we truly believe He only wants and works for our highest good we should be glad He continually convicts us of sin and patiently but persistently disciplines us to holiness. For the way to our ultimate happiness is holiness. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11) The Lord knows that a harvest of righteousness will bring a harvest of happiness.
In Joshua’s last sermon he exhorted the Israelites to put away all the false gods of their ancestors and worship God only and ends with this challenge and personal commitment: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Kristen wrote a poem about the intense jealous love of God and it is a good summary to end our letter this month.
JOSHUA’S LAST SERMON
Jehovah Kanna will never let you go
His jealousy gripping you from head to toe
Once in His hands, you may no others know
He alone will be your Lover.
Your troth of faith is permanent
The marriage contract cannot be rent
You shall not wander from His tent
Tis death to seek another.
His name is written on your brow
In ink of blood the indelible vow
Seals you as His for eternity now-
Irrevocably affirmed by your own voice.
Witnesses include the listening rock
Bound to your God in holy wedlock
Between you, He will countenance no block
He seriously solemnizes your free choice.
Kristen Sykes, December 8, 2008
In His love, Len and Kristen